Allen Park — The Detroit Lions are looking for players to step up and force more turnovers this offseason. They’ve been coming in droves from an unlikely source on the practice field.
A star on special teams, cornerback Johnson Bademosi is often an afterthought when dissecting the team’s depth chart. But no one at his position has made a more spectacular series of individual plays this camp than the sixth-year veteran out of Stanford.
“He is playing much better then he’s played at any other point in time through practice,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s becoming better in terms of his coverage skills, and I think that’s because of familiarity with the system.
“He’s gotten a little bit better feel, he’s got length and he’s got speed,” Caldwell said. “Those are the things that you really like about him and he’s rugged. He’ll get his hands on you and he’s pretty physical, so he’s making good strides.”
Bademosi continued his playmaking ways on Wednesday, snagging an over-the-shoulder interception on a deep pass intended for Jared Abbrederis during a one-on-one drill between the defensive backs and wide receivers. Bademosi also jumped an out route intended for Golden Tate in the drill, knocking the ball away.
Later, in the team portion, Bademosi appeared to come away with a second interception in the back of the end zone, but was ruled out of bounds by the official – a ruling the cornerback challenged on the field and after practice.
“We’ll just have to check the tape,” Bademosi said with a smile.
The over-the-shoulder grab was clearly the day’s highlight, and mirrored a similar play he made in practice last week. He’s arguably got his hands on more passes than anyone in the secondary since the start of camp, and he echoed Caldwell’s comments about his comfort level playing a significant role in his performance.
“A lot more, definitely,” Bademosi said. “Doing things the second time around, you start to understand things on a graduate level, not just a basic level. You start to understand the jobs of people around you and why we do certain things. Things are definitely easier the second time around.”
He’s also putting in the work. After catching some balls from the Juggs machine, he spend an additional ten minutes working on his footwork with teammate Darius Slay after practice.
“I’m just taking the coaching, working my technique every day and focusing on the details of my job and it’s coming to me,” Bademosi said.
Bademosi appeared in all 16 games for the Lions last season, filling in as a starter in three while Slay dealt with injuries. Bademosi flashed some ball skills in the playing time, breaking up five passes and recording his first career interception in a team’s Week 8 loss to Houston.
He also battled through some struggles, notably in a late-season game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Where Bademosi fits on the current depth chart is difficult to answer. He’s clearly behind the starters, Slay and Nevin Lawson, but should be considered in the mix for the first guy off the bench, along with free-agent signing D.J. Hayden and second-round draft pick.
“Competition brings the best out of people, but I can’t really focus on what’s going on around me,” he said. “Sometimes you have to have tunnel vision and just focus on yourself, your technique and doing your job to the best of your ability.”
Whatever Bademosi is doing right now, it’s working. He’s going to have an important role on special teams, regardless, but he’s making a case for a bigger one on defense with each play made in practice.